There are nearly 3.5 billion internet users today. And what are a large proportion of them doing with their time online? Using social media. Often. According to Informate Mobile Intelligence, most people check their social media pages 40 times a day!
For user experience (UX) designers, the popularity of social media brings new challenges and responsibilities. Designers can’t ignore the fact that social media is a significant part of users’ web browsing experience. In order to deliver ever-more engaging designs -- meaning giving users access to the information they want in a way that makes sense to them -- designers need to understand users’ online behaviors and digital desires.
So, how do you discover what will work for your audience?
In a word: research. Social media offers a window into the minds of your users. You can log onto any social platform and examine how they are engaging with the web and how they are accessing and interacting with information. And you can build personas based on information mined from their social profiles.
All this data provides crucial insight about user behavior. Here’s an example of the type of insight I’m referring to. Not long ago Facebook added emoji engagement buttons to give their users options beyond the ubiquitous “like.” A lot of people hated the new emojis, taking to social media to show their displeasure. But, ultimately they embraced the new emojis, regularly adding them to posts. Users’ behavior demonstrated their reaction to the change.
By extrapolating lessons learned from Facebook’s experience -- most users didn’t initially welcome but ultimately adapted to the changes (and nobody quit Facebook simply because there were new emojis) -- you can apply them to your own designs. You’ll have a reference, a guidepost that will help you anticipate how your users are likely to react to certain changes, whether they will adapt or protest.
By carefully analyzing your audience -- studying its demographics, exploring its behavior -- you can figure out what your users like about a particular platform’s design. And, perhaps more importantly, what they dislike.
This insight is invaluable. It requires very little time and money to obtain yet rewards with a far better understanding of your users. An understanding that allows you to confidently design with social media patterns in mind. That means, for instance, creating compelling share or call-to -action buttons. And carefully planning how you want a user to access and interact with your product or company.
Remember, careful is the key phrase. Any designer can toss a few social media buttons, landing pages or widgets onto their platform. It’s incredibly easy to do. But, usually incredibly unsuccessful. When social media engagement buttons are added haphazardly, without thought to placement or purpose, users rebel by disengaging. To keep them interested you need to design in a way that evokes emotion, fulfills desire, and serves a real purpose.
Social media is challenging UX designers to tell a compelling story with buttons, widgets and features. When you understand your users’ online behaviors you can create designs that are at once visually captivating and of value to your audience. Figuring out what works means leveraging social media to uncover their preferences.